This was originally a video review but if you wish to read the transcript, I have made it reader friendly
The world of MMORPG’s confuse me, I’ve never properly got into personally them but as an outsider looking in it just seems like a massive time sponge in which you’ll probably play as some ugly mother fucking mutant man dwarf if you’re a male or some sex god elf complete with big tits if you want to pretend you’re a female, running around in a virtual world full of other big tits spending days on end raising an arbitrary number that represents your strength which probably rises in negative correlation to your sex life. But what the hell do I know.
Never the less the genre has gained massive popularity in both the east and west that can only be topped worldwide the day someone decides to make Gears of Halo modern black ops 7 featuring nazi zombies that dance gangnam style. So it should come to no surprise to anyone that the anime that has gain the most popularity and of course controversy in 2012 is the RPG based anime Sword Art Online.
The story start’s off introducing the newest MMORPG to hit the market – Sword Art online. A game so great that geeks worldwide have been tossing themselves silly in glee and anticipation while the rest of the world is probably out there having sex. On it’s launch day everything seems to be going swimmingly for everyone - the world looks gorgeous and the game plays every bit as great as it’s hyped up to be, that is until the game’s creator kayaba akihiko gathers all the players to reveal a catch. Firstly all player’s avatars are changed to look like their real world bodies - good looking men become fat geeks, good looking ladies become fat geeks, fat geeks become fat geeks and under aged girls become FBI agents. Secondly all players are now trapped in the game with no way out unless they complete it. Everyone must live, breath and play the world of Sword Art Online until someone beats all 100 floors in it, and here's the stinger - if they die in game it WILL BE THE END OF THEIR LIFE!...online, or to put it in words that everyone will understand: PEOPLE DIE IF THEY ARE KILLED.
The story is told through the eyes of our main protagonist Kirito. One of the original BETA testers for the game who in real life is a super hacker that’s been obsessed with spending every waking hour trapped inside playing video game’s ever since a young age A.K.A, HE’S A FUCKING LOSER. At least he should be if he didn’t attract every female within a 10 mile in game radius. Yes it’s pretty much established that female player are some rare in the game and yet the main character seems to bonafied chick magnet with a variety of different girls - all in different shapes and boob sizes lining up so he can have the pick of which stereotype he wants.
Other important characters include Asuna, the main female lead introduced as a mysterious badass player that turns out to be a generic tsundare who is completely useless without her boyfriend. Suguha who is introduced later on and get's plenty of development by which I mean in her massive breast, who is also completely useless without her boyfriend. And the rest of the harem bait who only get about 1 episode of screen time anyway but it's enough to establish that they're completely useless without their bloody boyfriend But I'll touch on that subject later.
Now with my previous episode reaction videos there might have been some confusion as to what I actually thought about the show so I’ll just lay that to rest right now – Did I think Sword Art Online was good? Ehhhh….Kinda.
There are a lot of thing the show does well and one of them is most certainly the action. If A1 pictures have proved something to me after watching this and Birdy the Mighty DECODE, is that they know how to do their action and do it absolutely gorgeously. The highlights in SAO is undoubtedly the action scenes and this especially shines during every single boss battle we see. The boss battles were a glorious spectacle that never failed to drop my jaw right down to the floor, and gave me a nostalgic thrill of the hour's spent fighting my own boss battles as a kid playing some grand video game. Combine this with a soundtrack made by Yuki Kajira - who if you can’t remember did the soundtrack to Fate/Zero – and you’ll find yourself having eye’s and eargasms during the fantastically done high points in the show.
Yes the action and music are definitely the highlights of the show in addition to the beautiful art in that really made the stunning in-game setting stand out and made you feel like you wanted to be a part of this game.Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the story and characters which have enough individual problems to fill up a britannia encyclopedia set. In all seriousness the show takes itself too way too seriously, so much so that I’m pretty sure it ripped off some iconic scenes from the End of Evangelion and berserk cause apparently it’s just as serious as those other two shows.
The biggest feeling I got from this series was that it was trying to set itself up as an epic action adventure tale set in a vast unexplored online virtual world when it really was about a group of twats pissing about on a video game. The characters themselves aren't nearly as developed as they pretend to be since the amount of characterisation I got after 25 episodes of following Kirito is that he's some awesome badass cause he wears black clothes and is really good at video games, spends most his time trying to be the lone anti-hero and picks up chicks along the way like their fucking pokemon.
He’s the ultimate wish fulfillment character since he’s stupidly overpowered for unexplained reasons and anything remotely vagina shaped becomes completely reliant on him, perfectly encapsulated in a scene when he takes on seven full grown men to protect what looks like a 5 year old and becomes the first person ever to win a fight by standing people into submission. A feat accomplished by the legendary power known as “taking the bloody piss”
Asuna’s character – for all the potential she showed in her badass introduction just turns out to be a generic tsundare that doesn’t develop any deeper than that. Her romance between Kirito feels so forced and generic it was like it was written by a teenager who was just guessing at how romances work. Guy meets girl, they kinda know each other, spend some time together, she acts like she doesn’t like him *bullshit*, she cooks for him, suddenly she likes him. They spend a few more days together and then decide to get married! *wut*. The whole thing was handled so lazily and developed at a ridiculously unnatural pace leaving Asuna as nothing more than just a plot device by the end.
As for the story, well the biggest draw for this show is of course the great way the series set up its premise. The first 3 episodes of the show were great, setting up the intriguing premise perfectly that hinted at an epic quest to clear the game which would take a hell of a lot of work, sacrifice and hardship that could possibly lead to some higher purpose. It instantly drew you in made you want to see more of this world and how things would develop. Unfortunately from there it never really built on the tone and potential set in early episode by instead deciding to focus on a soiree of side stories that hardly focused on the main goal while constantly having time skips as if half the show was set in the hyperbolic time chamber. One moment it's an action adventure and the next minute it was CSI fucking War craft. It didn't have any focus which is a shame because if the plot did decide to go in the direction of the early episodes...it could've been a great anime.
Even with these problems though the first half was still an enjoyable look into a real life gaming environment and it was very interesting to see the psychological implications of actually creating a society within a virtual world. Each episode managed to build on a new aspect of the game and just seeing how core game mechanics was integrated into our daily lives lead to a very intriguing setting that never failed to grab my interest. However, the shoddy writing becomes completely evident in the second half when the show takes a nose dive so spectacular, it was worthy of an Olympic medal.
Without spoiling too much the great action is still there but the story takes a turn which makes it lose all sense of purpose while ironically managing to make you feel like you're watching a video game played by some pretentious idiots taking it ten thousand times too seriously. All feeling of urgency is lost and it's hard to feel for the characters when the entire story arc is driven by a romance that was a dribbling mess in the first place. A little sister character is introduced WHO IS NOT REALLY A SISTER (wink wink) along with new villain who seems about as threatening as a camp butterfly probably because that's exactly what he looks like, not helped by the fact that he's a middle aged man who just happens to scream like a 15 year old girl.
The writing also takes a back seat as there are multiple moments where the show disregards its own in game rules in favor of deus ex machina writing to either advance the plot, or make Kirito look like a badass leading to some ass pull’s so big it’s probably left the show with an anus the size of the grand canyon. The show has exactly the opposite problem that Highschool of the dead had by trying to be something that it was not and if it wasn't taking itself too seriously i would probably be a lot less harsh on it because there is a lot of fun to be had here, but despite all of this it has become by far the most popular anime of 2012.
It’s no surprise how there was such a huge popularity spike since I’m pretty sure becoming the most badass character stuck in the ultimate video game with hordes of females chasing after you is a secret wish fulfillment of every gamer out there, but bad writing and shoddy characters aside the show was definitely entertaining, particularly if you’re a gamer. There's a certain sense of satisfaction seeing all these gaming terms being thrown around and raising the stakes up to a game that looks genuinely fun to play cause as many criticism's as I had I was never once bored while watching the show, even if part of the entertainment was seeing the amount of stupid that was radiated in later episodes. The action at it's best was able to make me forget about the story and characters for a brief period, the setting makes it the perfect gateway anime for newbies and they obviously know their target audience well enough to execute this premise, so much so that I would say that if you like video games, especially if you like MMORPG's you will probably like this in one way or another.
Overall Sword Art Online is a solid show that has an interesting premise with great animation and music, but really fails when it comes to the character and plot. At the very least its an entertaining watch and does well to explore the concept of actually living in a high stakes game, but it takes itself far too serious and if you want any kind of enjoyment from this anime - it's probably best to watch it without thinking too much.